Grover Cleveland HS will remain open: DOE

By Madina Toure

The city Department of Education said it was committed to keeping Grover Cleveland HS in Ridgewood open at a public hearing last weekend.

Grover Cleveland, located at 21-27 Himrod St., is one of 55 schools that have been identified by the state Education Department as struggling schools, with another seven singled out as persistently struggling. Eight other Queens schools were on the list.

City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has one year to improve the persistently struggling schools and two years to improve the struggling schools or the schools may be turned over to an independent receiver.

An independent receiver could be another school district, a non-profit entity or an individual with a proven track record. The receiver is appointed for up to three school years and serves under the state Education Department.

District 24 High School Superintendent Elaine Lindsey said the school has received funding for Extended Learning Time and professional development and that most of the school’s classes are currently within the legal class-size limit.

Lindsey said the city expects Grover Cleveland to be off the struggling school list by the end of this year.

She encouraged students and parents to inform the community of the school’s achievements and participate in rebranding the school.

“It has been identified as struggling, but it’s not a school that’s on the radar to be closed,” she said.

For the 2015-2016 school year, the school is aiming for a 63 percent graduation rate for June, a 65 percent graduation rate for August, an 85 percent attendance rate and a minimum 5 percent increase in the Regents exam pass rate for every content area, according to data presented by Denise Vittor, the school’s principal.

The school’s June graduation rate was 60.7 percent for the 2014-15 school year, compared to 51 percent during the 2013-14 school year and 53 percent in the 2012-13 school year.

The August graduation rate was 62.5 percent in 2014-15, 58 percent in 2013-14 and 60.2 percent in 2012-13.

The attendance rate was 82.5 percent in 2014-15, compared to 79 percent in 2013-14 and 78 percent in 2012-13.

Students and parents asked questions about the fair student funding model, the career and technical education program, scholarships for college-bound students and funding for electronic resources. They also suggested more diverse sports options..

Vittor said the school receives about $20,000 annually for electronic resources, which is insufficient as each Smartboard costs $6,500 and that it is working to expand its allied health program.

“We want your participation every month,” she said. “We want your participation more than every month.”

Ridgewood resident Maritza Namuche, 55, whose son is in the 10th grade, said the school should send a letter to families describing what students have learned in a given month.

“If the teacher can send the parents the syllabus, that’s the way we can help the students,” Namuche said.

Rosemary Hennessey, a member of the student leadership team whose daughter is in the 11th grade, suggested the formation of a rap group to compose a song about difficult subjects.

“I’m sure a lot of kids like music,” Hennessey said. “I’m sure a lot of kids like rap music.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said Vittor has made “tremendous strides” in improving the school’s educational environment and that the school could benefit from the extra resources that schools in the city’s Renewal Schools program receive.

“I am ready and willing to work with the entire Grover Cleveland High School community to help protect this school from receivership, improve its graduation rates, and increase parental participation,” Addabbo said in a statement.

State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), a 1976 Grover Cleveland graduate, voiced her support for the school and commended Vittor’s efforts.

“With the right support and resources, I believe the school can be the best version of itself,” Nolan said in a statement.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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